There is no doubt about it, the days are getting shorter and cooler, the leaves are starting to turn colors and drop and farmers are starting to harvest their fall crops.
Because of our long winter, local farmers need to grow, harvest and store a large quantity of feed for their cattle and other livestock. High-quality feed is essential for the health of the animals and success of any farm operation. Because farming and crop production in particular is so dependent on the weather, this year has been a roller coaster ride for most New York farmers.
The wet weather of this spring, the summer heat and lack of moisture, and then the deluge of Tropical Storm Irene, have all combined to cause farmers a certain measure of uncertainty and delay. Crops have been flooded, dried up to the point of wilting and then knocked down by heavy winds. All these problems have added time and additional expense to the harvesting of the corn silage and grain this year. On top of the delays, lower crop yields have been reported as well.
While every farmer needs to store feed for the winter, there are a few who try to keep the feeding of stored feeds to minimum. Large dairy farms usually find it more efficient to house and feed the cows year round, but some smaller dairy farms and most beef producers endeavor to maximize their efficiencies by utilizing the harvesting capability of the animals themselves.
Traditionally, cows were let out every day onto pasture, but often the pasture did not supply enough forage to sustain adequate production without supplemental feeding. Pastures often became overgrazed; lack of grass made them dust bowls in the summer and muddy quagmires in the spring and fall. Managing pastures as a crop-producing field is bringing more farms back to grass.